Porsche 356

70 Year Salute

If there was ever an “underdog” story of man and machine, Porsche would undoubtedly be in the running for the podium. Aside from the well-documented struggles that the Porsche family endured after WWII, there is the car itself that spearheaded their legacy, the type 356

A meager 1100cc powered coupe loosely based on the design of the VW beetle, this was indeed the farthest thing from a caged bull-dog ready to fight. And then there is the race…the race, which can both destroy or define one’s fate for a lifetime; the Le Mans 24. Fortunately for Porsche on June 24, 1951, the latter prevailed, launching a legacy that is still revered seven decades later. 

Porsche 356

To celebrate the 70th anniversary of Porsche’s first class win at the Le Mans 24, what better than rolling out the actual car that took the checkered flag, chassis 356/2-063. 

With the priceless racer currently on display at the Petersen Automobile Museum in Los Angeles, CA, it was all meant to be that its current owner Cameron Healy, restorer Rod Emory, and the car itself be united once again to share the story of Porsche’s first racing milestone. 

Porsche display

Due to limited capacity restrictions, the event quickly filled up with Porsche enthusiasts from across Southern California. Mainly air-cooled Porsches arrived and were directed to the upper parking lot where everyone awaited the streamlined treasure to be rolled outside. 

With its owner Cameron Healy behind the wheel, gravity did most of the work as the car was pushed down a long ramp and guided to center stage for the crowd to appreciate. After some cheers and clapping, Cameron took the mic and expressed his gratefulness and admiration for the car that put Porsche on the map. 

356 Le Man winner

The car’s restorer Rod Emory then explained how his first vintage racer was highly influenced by Porsche’s “Gmünd 356 SL” cars, and shared some facts about the restoration. Paramount to this undertaking was recreating its roof that was cut off back in the 1950s to save weight. 

In fact, it was during the intense research of the car for its authentic restoration that it was discovered this chassis was the class-winning Le Mans 24 car, and not the one at the Porsche Museum, long thought to be the winner. 

Finally, artist Dwight Knowlton, founder of Carpe Viam (seize the road), gave a sneak preview into his new book “Destined for Victory”, a beautifully illustrated work covering the car’s class victory at Le Mans. 

Porsche book
Cars in park
cars around
Porsche 356 in carpark

All combined, the small enthusiastic crowd, blue skies, and history-rich Petersen Museum made for the perfect setting to look back 70 years and pay respect to a car that launched a brand on the world stage of Sports Cars. 

For those unable to attend, note that Porsche chassis 356/2-063 is currently part of the exhibit “Redefining Performance” which embraces Porsche’s history of engineering achievements built on limited resources. 

Petersen Automotive Museum

Tickets are available at the Petersen Automotive Musueum.

Show Comments (2)

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  1. Rex McAfee, son of the great 1950s sports car driver and Porsche champion Jack McAfee, writes with expertise and elegance here in his preview of this 356SL now being celebrated 70 years after its debut and class win at Le Mans. Cheers go to Rex for carrying forward the McAfee name with such understanding and style in bringing the past to present through his words and photography. From victor on track to winner in media, McAfee is the generations signature to watch and read now and in the future.

  2. Wish it would come to the Porsche HQ near Atlanta. As much as I hate driving through my hometown, I’d definitely make the trip.